Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China

Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China

Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China

Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China

Synopsis

"Passage to Manhood" is a groundbreaking and beautifully written ethnography that addresses the intersection of modernity, heroin use, and AIDS as they intersect in a new "rite-of-passage" among young ethnic-minority males in contemporary China.

Excerpt

I remember vividly the sense of calm and comfort that settled over me as I made my way alone, cradling a hen in my left arm and a bag of rice in my right, along the mountain basin path in darkness. the hen was submissive; its low clucking consolingly answered my weeping. I had just returned from visiting a friend who had fallen seriously ill from aids. He had been bedridden for a week, and struggled to sit up when I arrived. Upon seeing him, I uttered the most common Nuosu greeting, “Is your body well?” He replied with the usual courteous response, “I am well.” But he was not well at all. Knowing he would die soon, I had not brought a gift for this visit. I had learned to be pragmatic in this impoverished area. Instead I gave money to his family and asked them to buy whatever he liked to eat or use. Privately, I knew this was my condolence money for his funeral, my small effort to try and help the family prepare for his departure. I did not stay long because I felt bad for my friend, who insisted on sitting up while I was there. So I bid him a reluctant final farewell and left. Just as I was taking off my shoes to wade across the stream on the way back to my residence, my friend’s young son caught up with me. He handed me the hen and the bag of rice and said these were from his grandmother, my friend’s elderly mother. I politely declined them because I knew that even a hen was of great value to the poor seven-member household. But the boy insisted and repeatedly expressed his family’s appreciation to me. I finally accepted the gifts and carried them home. the warm little hen was the only living being I could lean on just then, when I was wanting a comforting touch. This was not the first time, nor the last, that I would fall sad at seeing or hearing about a friend’s surrender to aids or other drug-related illness. But the local people’s courtesy . . .

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